Ready, Set … Engage: Mobile technology and engagement can transform healthcare

Almost everyone in my family got a techie gadget for Christmas. My oldest son got a portable vibration speaker system that turns just about anything — a cup, a bowl, a lampshade—into a speaker. My daughter spent the holidays in SnapChat-Instagram bliss on her new iPhone and like many Americans heading into a resolution-filled New […]

Almost everyone in my family got a techie gadget for Christmas.

My oldest son got a portable vibration speaker system that turns just about anything — a cup, a bowl, a lampshade—into a speaker. My daughter spent the holidays in SnapChat-Instagram bliss on her new iPhone and like many Americans heading into a resolution-filled New Year, my husband and I treated ourselves to iPods, with the enthusiastic plan of loading them with ground-pounding playlists that will keep us off the couch and out walking.

We have Fitbits to track our mobility, mobile technology applications to track our food choices and a wireless digital scale to track weight loss and BMI.

We’re connected and mobile. We’re armed and ready. But only time will tell whether we were able to embrace change and whether all of these tools truly enable our engagement.

There are many challenges in healthcare, and no single solution is going to fix them all, but just about every clinician and healthcare expert would tell you that nothing will have a greater impact on the system than having healthier patients. And when it comes to making that a reality, the squeeze is on. Reimbursement restrictions around hospital re-admissions have providers and technology companies scrambling to answer healthcare’s most prevailing question: What will it take to engage patients in preventative health behaviors and care compliance?

We’ve been addressing what it’s going to take to create a truly enabled healthcare ecosystem, starting with the infrastructure of reliable connectivity and building on that foundation with secure access. But, connectivity and security will only get the horse to water. The greater work lies ahead of us in the arena of consumer/patient engagement.

That’s going to mean delivering more than gadgets and trackers.

It will mean leveraging reliable connectivity and “anywhere” mobility to empower patient decision-making in real time—mobile devices that use proximity and location detection features to deliver coupons and discount offers that incentivize consumers to make healthier grocery, restaurant and fitness choices while they are in the store or at the register.

It will mean creating a future where remote monitoring and activity-sensing devices are intuitively integrated into “smart” home environments in ways that shift the paradigm on what “activities of daily living” look like for the aging-in-place population and their caregivers.

It’s also going to mean eliminating the barriers to clinician-patient communication that have prevented a 360-degree view of patient health. Engaging patients to use wellness trackers, remote monitoring devices, and smart-capture mobile health technologies will only be meaningful in an environment where the clinician and the clinical team are fully informed and appropriately alerted to those activities.

Most physicians have to rely on their patients to be transparent and honest about their at-home prevention and compliance activities, especially when it comes to the activities more difficult for a physician to influence and monitor—diet, exercise, sleep, stress management, smoking cessation, etc. A clinician that is connected with his/her patients through a mobile health platform is suddenly able to monitor a patient’s real-life activities in ways that drive early intervention and decrease the likelihood of readmission.

There is also the intangible benefit of building a stronger provider-patient relationship through this kind of sustained connectivity with the patient. A patient who knows her clinician is monitoring those activities and whose clinical team is calling when there are alert notifications is more likely to be compliant with care, more likely to keep scheduled appointments, and far less likely to feel isolated and detached from the care process.

Connectivity and mobility intersect best with innovation when it comes to solutions that actually eliminate barriers to patient engagement in the care process. Verizon announced the winners of its Powerful Answers innovations competition last week at the Computer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, awarding $1 million dollars each to the winners in three categories (education, healthcare, and sustainability).

Smart Vision Labs of Newport , R.I., took the top prize in the healthcare category by creating a portable vision examination device that with a single snapshot from your cell phone can measure refractive errors of the eye, alerting individuals, parents, and caregivers to potential changes in vision that might require intervention. More importantly, the device can be deployed to eliminate the barriers to vision screening that have prevented more than 500 million people globally from corrective care.

When connectivity, security and engagement align in such powerfully enabling ways, real transformation in healthcare becomes possible. Solutions built on that framework have the potential to lower the cost of care, eliminate redundancy and waste, address health access challenges and move the needle on care compliance and health outcomes.

These three pillars — connectivity, security, engagement — are the underpinning of our solutions strategy at Verizon. We believe transformation for healthcare truly lies down that road.

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